Just the day before the Snap General Election here in the UK, members of the Revolution Hive team – including myself – spent the day teaching young people not in education, employment or training about politics.
The session we delivered taught them about how the political system works, reasons for them to engage and why sharing their opinion is so important.
Shocking as it may seem to some, we were not surprised that at the very mention of the ‘P’ word, they scoffed, grimaced and were clearly ready to disengage.
This is a common challenge that we face when it comes to mobilising young people as an electorate. However, from our experience, we have come to believe that the idea that young people don’t vote or care is, and has always been, a bit of a myth.
As we saw last week, young people voted in high numbers. Some estimates place voter turnout among 18-25-year-olds as high as 72%, with most of them voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
So what changed? How did Corbyn and his team manage this?
Social media endorsements
To make the comparison, it seemed that they identified key successful elements from Bernie Sanders’ campaign and then built upon that. Their principles and plans were appealing, cool to vote for and they ensured that they shared it in the places where young people are likely to engage.
Trust levels in newspapers are extremely low in the UK, and young people tend to gain their news information from social media.
The Conservatives chose to market their campaign to potential young voters through (terrible) paid social media adverts. Labour on the other hand, put young people at the heart of creating and driving their marketing.
This was a critical difference that had massive effect.
Corbyn’s decision to do interviews with influencers like JME and Copa90 as a part of his campaign can only be described as genius. Not only that, but to make surprise appearances at big concerts for the masses, and little ones for the most engaged, proved to be a very effective tactic
From using Tinder, to starting #Grime4Corbyn hashtags – the campaign was creative and inspiring.
To cap it all off, seeing well-respected urban artists like Akala and Lowkey say they’re not just voting, but voting for Corbyn, it has a huge influence.
(Picture: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
The relentless and authentic work done by organisations like UpRising, Bite The Ballot and Shoutout UK played a massive role too. Organisations across the sector, including ours, first succeeded in getting large numbers of young people to register, the next step was to get them vote in large numbers … and it happened.
So what happens now? We need to continue this great engagement and go about preparing ourselves – Corbyn may not the Prime Minister, but he could well be. To bring about a new wave of progressive politics and politicians, it will begin with us being progressive citizens and voters.
I hope those who dismissed us as an unreliable snowflake selfie generation are enjoying eating their own words today. Nick Clegg knows full well how young voters can make or break you as an MP.
What this means
Young people not voting has been a vicious cycle for too long, so politicians disregard them in favour of those who do.
Clearly, this has now changed.
Politicians should not only gear their policies towards young voters, but make them part of the creation and dissemination of these as much as possible.
Trust me. It works.
We asked the young people in our session, what they would do if they had power and their resistance quickly evaporated in favour of enthusiasm. Politics went from a word to a lived experience they could shape. It became real for them.
If you want young people to champion and vote for you, you need to vote for them first by putting them at the heart of what you do.